No tea break for Rob & co

Rod Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra play at Heart of Hawick on Saturday.
Rod Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra play at Heart of Hawick on Saturday.

Rob Heron and The Tea Pad Orchestra, one of the hardest working bands on the UK roots music circuit, are hitting Hawick this Saturday.

The outfit from Tyneside play a string of dates that will lead them north to appear as one of the main headline acts at next month’s Shetland Folk Festival.

The group have built a sizeable fan base following numerous tours and big festival appearances.

“A hot six-piece featuring guitars, mandolin, harmonica, accordion, double bass and percussion, they’re more eclectic than most, mixing western swing, gypsy jazz, hokum blues, ragtime, Cajun, and roots-of-country,” says promoter Loudon Temple.

Their debut album, Money Isn’t Everything, caused a sensation when it was released in 2012, winning a host of rave reviews – many of them five-star. The band played to their biggest audiences yet when Pokey LaFarge and The South City Three invited them to open for the American riverboat rag-time band on their last big UK tour.

Pokey described the sextet as “the gem of the bunch” while comparing them to others.

Emily Miller of The Sweetback Sisters is another admirer and says that Rob and the band make music that “tickles your heart strings”.

Rob says that circumstances always led the band to tour mainly in England as that was where they had won themselves a sizeable following.

But he added: “We have always wanted to come to Scotland as we know the style of music we play is popular.

“Pokey LaFarge launched his career over here playing in Scotland before he took his band anywhere else in the UK.

“He played the Heart of Hawick venue before the band’s career really took off after their appearance on the Later with Jools TV show, and I hear it’s a great gig.

“We’re out to have a good time and if everyone else is, we’ll all be very happy,” he said.

Although formed in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in 2010, the band come from every corner of the UK – Rob himself is from Cumbria.

Alongside him in the line-up is mandolin player Tom Cronin from Warwickshire, while accordionist Colin Nicholson is from Orkney.

Glasgow is represented by lead guitarist and vocalist Ben Fitzgerald, but double bass player and part-time hip-hop DJ Rob Blazey is from Newcastle, as is the talented, suit case bashing, Dav Shiel on the drums.

They made an early impact on their adopted home city, with their very own regular night at the Cumberland Arms, The Tea Pad Presents, showcasing fellow local bands that play anything from jazz to rockabilly.

While touring across the country, the band remain committed to their north east base, releasing their new 7in single last Saturday in Newcastle to coincide with Record Store Day.

As well as Hawick, the sextet play New Galloway tomorrow, Biggar on Sunday, Glasgow on Monday, and Tuesday sees them travel to Edinburgh, before the trip north to Shetland for the islands’ folk weekend, which takes place from Thursday May 2-5.

Rob Heron and The Tea Pad Orchestra perform at the Heart of Hawick on Saturday, from 7.30pm. Tickets cost £12 (£10 concessions), phone 01450 360688.